A griot (gree-oh) is the keeper of the West African oral tradition and the tribe's genealogy through poetic songs. Bob Holman is invited to Gambia by his long-time friend and teacher, Papa Susso, to learn more about this musical art and see how the kora, the 21-string harp-lute is made. Bob travels up the Niger River with Papa's son, Karamo, also a griot, in search of the spirit of the African-American Beat poet, Ted Joans, who lived a buoyant life in Timbuktu in the 70s and was Bob's mentor. Along the way, Bob discovers the roots of hip-hop, rap, the blues -- all the great American musical traditions that originated in Africa. The episode concludes with a kora-guitar jam session between Karamo and Ali Farka Toure's son, Vieux.
About On the Road
What happens when a downtown New York poet of the hip hop and slam persuasion discovers that the roots of spoken word go back thousands of years and span the globe? If he's Bob Holman, he goes On the Road to track them down! He trades stories, fun, recipes, insights, jokes, songs, and poems. Along the way, he gets passionately immersed in the Endangered Language crisis -- over half the world's 6500 languages will disappear before the end of this century. Holman guides us to the bottom-line question of survival of these systems of consciousness with respect, joy, and dedication to diversity. He throws himself into the life -- shares the meals, participates in the ceremonies, dances and parties. His enthusiasm infects the series' fast-paced style.
Produced by Ram Devineni and Beatriz Seigner. Hosted by Bob Holman.